Wednesday, June 28, 2006

All That's Missing Are The Pitchforks and Angry Villagers: Journalists Turn On Each Other In Times Bank Records Flap

Memo To Richard Valeriani: Shut Up
Everybody and their editor has an opinion on The New York Times money-tracing story that has the Bush administration in a tizzy while the National Review has all but called for the paper's First Amendment privileges to be revoked.
Nothing unexpected there. But it is a bit startling when the vitriol comes from someone who should know better, in this case Richard Valeriani, the former long-time NBC correspondent who often dwelled in the national-security trenches.
In the Huffington Post, Richard Valeriani is foaming at the mouth over what he views as borderline treason by Bill Keller's gang.

This was show-off journalism, pure and simple. Look at us. Look at what we found out. Look at how good we are uncovering secrets.
Yeah, so what?

Valeriani almost sounds hurt as if he wishes he was still at the network so he could've been the one on with Brian Williams breaking the story rather than everybody else, who had to chase after the Times, when the story first posted at 9 p.m.

In a vain attempt to justify his sanctimony, Valeriani offers up two analogies and fails miserably both times. First:

After the take-over of the American Embassy in Iran in 1979, I found out that six American diplomats had escaped and were at large somewhere in Teheran. The Executive Editor at NBC Nightly News wanted to run the story, but fortunately, management was more sensible, and we did not report the story at the time.

Bully for him, but how do you equate this story with hostages escaping from dangerous radicals? You don't. We're talking about lives in the balance, as opposed to yet another dash to secrecy by the White House, where the slope becomes ever more slippery for the Constitution. Yes, nothing is illegal about the program. At least from what we've learned so far.

Valeriani saves the best for last:

Running the story about the money-tracing program is a version of giving Anne Frank’s address to the Nazis.

Whoa, Dick! That's a crappy comparison in all kinds of ways.

Reality check time. The Times had the story, with The Wall Street Journal and L.A. Times soon on its tail. In other words, leading newspapers liberal and conservative did their job -- disclosure trumped government secrecy. If anything, the adminstration has only itself to blame. By constantly trying to operate in the dark, even in matters that don't involve security, it was easy not to give the White House the benefit of the doubt.

The Times isn't the enemy. Valeriani should know better along with the other latter-day nattering nabobs of negatavism who all of a sudden think freedom of the press wasn't such a good idea after all.

Cutting Anderson Cooper Just A Little Slack

CNN Pretty Boy Actually Has Some Journalistic Heft Under His Hair
So it's fashionable to dump on TV news It Boy Anderson Cooper. Sometimes, the silver-haired one makes it a little too easy, like during his fawning Angelina Jolie interview ,where he embarrassed himself asking questions about childbirth.
And, as The New York Observer's Rebecca Dana gleefully points out, all the hype hasn't translated into ratings for his two-hour newsfest on CNN. In fact, they slip most nights in comparison to his somnabulant predecessor, Aaron Brown.
For now, let's try to give the guy at least an eensy bit of credit. If he was all hair, blue eyes and empty-headed, he'd be interviewing hucksters on infomercials by now. Instead, he's hit the highway numerous times in search of a good story and has often come through. CNN isn't exactly blowing its travel budget on a bubble-head.
Covering the tsunami, Cooper found the right mix of gravitas and emotion. He may have gone off the rails at times during the Katrina coverage, but so did most of us as we watched the story unfold.
The Coop's also gotten down and dirty in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other dubious ports of call. And his brief excursions to "60 Minutes" were solid to a fault, which bodes well for the five stories he's slated to do there in the coming season.
For now, let's forgive him his Jolie trespasses and see what happens next. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dan Would Have Rathered Taken The High Road But Found It Was Full Of Potholes

CBS Is A Network Not Always Big On Big Goodbyes
Dan Rather said all the right things today as his departure from CBS after 44 years became official.
So did CBS, but the end result was different.
Usually, this is a time for every bromide to be taken out of cold storage for a valedictory statement. Rather -- whom I did some writing for during my time at CBS News Radio -- was having none of that.
Still, the public candor and residual bitterness in his statement was remarkable given how rare it is.

My departure before the term of my contract represents CBS's final acknowledgement, after a protracted struggle, that they had not lived up to their obligation to allow me to do substantive work there. As for their offers of a future with only an office but no assignments, it just isn't in me to sit around doing nothing.

CBS demurred by responding in kind -- their contract offer or lack thereof had already spoken volumes.
Instead, it issued a pat: "We value and respect Dan's tremendous career at CBS News. Despite the fact that we couldn't reach an agreement that satisfied everyone, we wish him all future success.", though, to its credit, did mention Rather's criticism and linked to the entire statement.

The network says it's working on a primetime special honoring Rather's career to be aired in the fall (should we hold our breath?). We'll see if it's all hosannas all the time, or will they mix in some of the lower moments ("Ready, Set, Gorbachev", "Courage", walking off when the U.S. Open tennis ran long, the Afghan fashion statement and that little Bush/National Guard thing).
A lot may depend on how much he pisses off his now-former bosses in his interviews over the next few days.

What I'll miss about him is that despite all the idiosyncrasies and Ratherisms -- "this race is hotter than a Laredo parking lot" anyone? -- is that CBS had in its anchor chair for 24 years a dogged reporter whose bullshit detector was almost always on high.

Unlike Brian Williams, to name one, Rather didn't have to be seasoned in the field to establish his credentials. Vietnam and the Nixon White House had long since taken care of that. He liked presiding in the big tent that a network anchor is afforded, but still yearned to be pounding the pavement in search of a good story to tell. And when he latched onto one, there were few better in his prime.
Dan often surprised us grunts in radio with how generous he was with his time to provide analysis on a story, or give us a preview of an interview he'd just scored with some head of state or newsmaker du jour.
Many TV correspondents thought radio was not worth their bother -- even though more people heard the hourly newscasts than watched the evening news -- but not Dan, who remembered from whence he came. He was always introduced as CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather, rather than CBS Evening News Anchorman Dan Rather.
Of course, he was more than just a reporter. Getting paid $10 million a year does that to a guy. But he was all about the news -- lots of steak -- Texas-sized, to be sure -- easy on the sizzle.
So, it's not surprising that he's declined to go quietly. Rather, cowboy boots and all, was having none of that, and is happy to hitch his ride at some other outpost.
Good for him.

Editor's Resume Victim of Bad Copyediting

Ex-Wisconsin ME Sues Over Not Getting A Second Chance To Make A First Impression
Sure, it's embarrassing when you send out a resume and it's rife with typos, even more so when you're a former newspaper editor in search of greener pastures in flackdom.
Such is the plight of poor Barbara Uebelacker, former managing editor of the Janesville Gazette in Wisconsin.
For some reason, known only to Uebelacker, she paid $1,720 to an employment agency to help her find a job. That exorbitant fee included writing her resume and sending it out to prospective employers.
Just one wrinkle in that scheme: The agency sent out hundreds of letters, with Uebelacker's faked signature to boot, with gibberish in the letter, which , shall we say, doesn't exactly leave the right impression for a job where attention to detail is paramount.
Now she's suing for humiliation, mental anguish, etc. Despite the gaffe, it's still not a slam dunk as to whether she actually has a case or whether it's really worth the expense of litigating. Of course, that's never stopped anyone from filing suit, and this one will never get as far as the courtroom.
Still, the larger question remains is why someone would pay all that money for someone to help them find a job. A little sweat equity can go a long way.
Nowadays you rarely need a stamp to apply for a job, as Monster, Hot Jobs and Career Builder will no doubt tell you.
A job change is a big deal and trusting some anonymous agency to do the legwork for you is practically begging everyone who knows you to yell in unison "I told you so."
Which is not to say Uebelacker got what she deserved, but she came pretty damn close.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lyrical Wire Prose for Phil Mickelson's Epic Collapse

AP Copy Doesn't Have to Be Boring. Honest.
When Phil Mickelson bungled his way to a second-place finish yesterday in the U.S. Open, it was a stunning story. No doubt, more than a few laptops were whirring in the press tent about Lefty winning his third-straight major, tying Tiger Woods
The gallery loves the doughy Lefty, he of the warm smile, telegenic wife and cute daughters. It was the story of the day, except a double-bogey on 18 got in the way. Which, of course, turned into a better story that the AP's Doug Ferguson turned into a compelling narrative remarkable not just for its lyrical grace but because it ran on the AP, whose sports report usually errs on the side of staid, even by wire-service standards.

Instead of being linked with Woods in the majors, the comparisons turned to Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999, when the Frenchman took triple bogey on the last hole of the British Open. But at least Van de Velde got a chance in a playoff.

Mickelson could only cup his hands over his cap and acknowledge a New York crowd that he disappointed again.And he had only himself to blame.

He had a two-shot lead with four holes to play, but his stubborn side continued to hit driver, and his miscues finally caught up with him ... And while he found a way to escape most times, Winged Foot got its vengeance at the end.

Good stuff, especially in the unforgiving world of get-it-to-me-five-minutes-ago deadlines in the wire-service world.

Other nice leads riffing on The Double Bogey, included Hank Gola in the New York Daily News:

A four to win, a five to tie. Phil Mickelson made a six, and not since the Red Sox beat the Yankees in seven in 2004 has New York felt such a sickening punch to the solar plexis.

Sam Weinman of The Journal News, the tournament's hometown paper, led off with this nice detail:

When it was over, after the men in blazers lined up, and the speeches had already begun, and the trophy was improbably handed to someone else, there was Phil Mickelson left in the corner of the pro shop.
He was seated in the back, with his wife, Amy, at his side. The golfer ran one hand through his hair. He held Amy's hand in another. At one point, he dropped his head down flat on the table as if he wanted to crawl underneath it.

Oh, and there's that unsung hero of the day, you know, the guy who won the whole thing, Aussie Geoff Ogilvy. Still, even though he came out on top of the leader board, Ogilvy sounded a bit surprised that it was he, not Mickelson or Colin Montgomerie, as Ed Sherman reminds us in the Chicago Tribune:

Ogilvy, though, knew he was lucky to be holding the trophy.

"I think I was the beneficiary of a little bit of charity," Ogilvy said.

Mickelson and Montgomerie should check if their donations are tax deductible.,1,7818128.story?coll=chi-sportsnew-hed

Monday, June 12, 2006

David Carr Leaves Us Hanging While He Lets Ann Coulter Off The Hook

So the Princess of Pablum has released another hysterical screed entitled "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" and is now flogging it or having others, like David Carr of The New York Times, do it for her.
In his column today, Carr earnestly tries to show he's onto Coulter, who at 45 is looking more haggard as she gets more strident, but is hoplessly, desperately trying to show he's not one of those Coulter has gotten rich trying to hard to despise.
After nearly 1,000 words of trying and generally failing to explain her away, Carr writes:

Without the total package, Ms. Coulter would be just one more nut living in Mom's basement. You can accuse her of cynicism all you want, but the fact that she is one of the leading political writers of our age says something about the rest of us.

And exactly what is that something, David?

Coulter may have a devoted audience, but so do many right-wing columnists and talk-show hosts. They're a loyal fringe who revel in their own myopia. They like that someone is bold enough to be the politically incorrect/class clown that they are too cowered to be -- a warped Greek chorus, if you will.
And that the someone who calls Katie Couric "Eva Braun," Cindy Sheehan a "C-list celebrity" or 9/11 widows "harpies" who enjoy being millionaires now that their husbands are dead is tall, thin, blonde -- and to some, good looking -- is so much icing on their odious cake.
Conservatives are good at trying interrupting and ridiculing others who disagree with them and trying to be the loudest in the roomn, as if he who bellows most is the one who's right. Coulter excels at being a bully, which is why you see her on TV a lot. It's also the key to her success as an author, not to mention why journalists like David Carr bother writing about her.
And that says something about the Fourth Estate. But it doesn't say something, anything about the rest of us.

That may be the answer you're looking for, Dave.

XM Radio's Lee Abrams Wants Credit For The Good, Softpedals The Bad

Programming Guru Who Has Helped Make Satellite Radio Great Also Among The Reasons Terrestrial Radio Sucks
First things first: Give Lee Abrams a lot of credit for recognizing back in the early 70s that FM radio was poised to take over in a big way and was the architect of the AOR format that so many stations rode to success for two decades or more.
The problem is, he created a monster that he prefers to distance himself from now that he is the brains behind the music programming at XM Radio, which much more often than not is brilliant, inspired and realizing the possibilities of radio in a way that a commercial station could never even hope to dream about.
In an interview with FMQB, Abrams recalled how he bridged the gap between what he called "vulnerable Top 40 listeners" and the few underground/progressive stations that were but a blip at a time when you still had to pay extra to get a radio with FM.

They liked about every fifth record. When the Stones or Cream would come on they liked it. But they didn’t care for the Neil Diamond and Bobby Goldsboro records in between. However, that was a little easier for them to handle than some of the progressive stations where, if it was raining you’d hear hours of rain songs, or if the night guy didn’t like Jethro Tull he didn’t play any Jethro Tull. There wasn’t a lot of discipline in those stations.

Fair enough. But in creating the Album Rock/Superstars format that soon ruled the roost at hundreds of stations, Abrams effectively parroted the rigid formatting of a Top 40 station albeit with a somewhat larger playlist. Hey, radio's a business first and foremost, and AOR struck a crucial balance.
The problem: Abrams's success begot a host of imitators, all trying to outdo the master. That led to program directors besieged by focus groups, and music and audience research to the point where the wannabes were afraid to take chances on new music. Deejays were spanked if they said something else than what was on their liner cards.
Abrams succeeded big-time from an Arbitron and revenue standpoint, and that was all that really mattered, especially as corporate ownership became the norm at radio stations and mind-numbing predictability by stations playing it safe led to a slew of disenfranchised music fans, particularly those in the 25-44 demographic who remembered the good old days.
Abrams told FMQB he provided a mix of depth and discipline, though you could certainly argue the former. Yeah, it was more than Top 40 but if you spent anytime listening to college radio or the progressive stations still out there, AOR stations often provided the sizzle but a very pallid steak.
Now he's more than redeemed himself at XM, where he has a canvas of dozens of music channels to work with. By catering to many narrow audience he can please just about anyone. He just doesn't have to do it at the same time.
It's a good thing he doesn't have to give in to temptation or the pressures rained down upon programmers from Arbitron. Otherwise we'd be right back where we started. For the stations devoted to just playing the hits also happen to be the most popular music channels on XM.

P.S. If you want to keep track of what's on the mind of XM's programming head honcho, Abrams is one of the quadrillions of us out there with a blog at

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Donald Picks The Right Apprentice, Sort Of

In the end, you knew that unless Sean Yazbeck screwed up royally on his final task, Donald Trump would name him the winner of season 5 of "The Apprentice," the best edition of the show since its rookie edition.
Yazbeck had the experience, good looks, really cute girlfriend and engaging British accent, to, um, trump Lee Bienstock, very capable, extremely determined, but still baby-faced at 22.
Nonetheless, Trump was very impressed by both of them. "I'd like to hire both of you, but I can't."
Well, yes and no.
Yes, there's only supposed to be one Apprentice. But that choice had been unequivocal until last season, when Randall Pinkett wowed the Donald, though he was also smitten with Rebecca Jarvis.
Pinkett got hired, but Trump didn't want to say goodbye to Rebecca just yet. So, he asked, Randall, if he was in Trump's shoes, would he also hire Rebecca. To which he replied, to the scorn of many:

“Mr. Trump, I firmly believe that this is ‘The Apprentice,’ that there is one and only one apprentice, and if you’re going to hire someone tonight, it should be one. It’s not ‘The Apprenti,’ it’s ‘The Apprentice.’”

Not wanting to risk sending Sean into a hissy fit so soon after his triumph, not to mention a buzzkill among the audience in the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, Trump decided not to lose control of his show anymore and bade Lee farewell the old-fashioned way.
What remains to be seen is whether Lee will have a future with Trump after all. During the extended closing sequence -- spurred by Trump saying goodnight before the show really had to end -- there were extended shots of people on stage, and at one point it looked like The Donald was telling The Lee something like "I'll talk to ya," indicating there might be something in the offing.
Or not.
And, yes, Sean really did say he was going to marry Tammy. Great catch and mazel tov. Maybe you could find out where they'll be registered at, assuming you can navigate past the first page. So far, I can't.

ADDED AT 8:48 p.m. :

If you want to hear more from Lee, who is being very much the good sport, at least in public, check out:

Thanks to Steve Weiss for sharing this.

As Kimberly Dozier Keeps Getting Better, The News From Iraq Keeps Getting Worse

Context and Perspective from the Killing Fields
Of course, it's great to hear that Kimberly Dozier continues on the slow but steady road to recovery from the bomb blast that severely wounded her and killed her camera man and sound man.
As a former colleague of Kimberly's, you shudder when you hear her name used in such grave terms. It especially rattled friends over at my old stomping grounds at CBS News Radio, as she had just been in New York recently, and she looked as good as ever. You never heard "shrapnel" and "Dozier" used in the same sentence until last week.
When her Dad told CBS last week that Kimberly's "sharp as a tack," the sigh of relief on West 57th St. was palpable.
But the story continues, and it's a grim reminder of just what Kimberly and her journalistic brethren are up against.
Nearly 1,400 civilians were killed in May -- many of them execution style -- and that number doesn't include those killed by bombs.
Which only underscores how being an intrepid journalist in Iraq is hazardous to your health. And Kimberly, at the time of the attack, wasn't even covering the car bomb du jour, or the other selections on the bad news menu that the military flacks rail against.
She was serving as a 21st-century Ernie Pyle, showing how Memorial Day back home was just another dangerous tour of duty outside the Green Zone for a typical G.I.
The fact that she was even embedded is a remarkable feat nowadays. Reporters, to the extent that they feel safe, often feel more protected going out with the military. But those arrangements nowadays can take weeks.
If you ever thought about the glamour and excitement in the life of a war correspondent, Iraq has done a great job to disabuse you of those notions. It certainly has for those working there, who have covered many a conflict.
Along those lines, must reading is a recent New York magazine profile by Jennifer Senior about Iraq-based correspondents, and the toll their assignment has taken on them, written before the Dozier attack.
You admire what they do at the same time you're glad you're as far away from that mess as possible. It's the kind of story that at once is emblematic of why people want in to the news business, but it's also the kind that might send you running and screaming from a laptop once you've realized what you've gotten yourself into.